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Shelby County Elementary School dealing with bat infestation

Jun 09, 2024


That hasn't stopped classes at Wright Elementary School.

LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) -- An elementary school in Shelby County has a bat problem.

In a message to parents of students at Wright Elementary School, dated Aug. 8, Principal Seth Green said bats had been discovered in the attic.

"A few weeks ago, it came to our attention that bats had taken up residence in the attic," Green said. "As with any pest control issue, such as mice or bed bugs, we immediately took action to address the situation."

Green said the school district has a contract with OPC Pest Control to handle all pest management matters.

"It is important to note that all wildlife species, including bats, are protected by Kentucky law," he wrote. "Killing a bat is against the law. However, OPS Pest Control has retained special permission from the state authorities to exclude the bats immediately."

Superintendent Dr. Sally Sugg told WDRB that the bats apparently moved in sometime over the summer when few people were using the building.

The North Central Health Department confirmed it was notified of an issue and began an investigation on August 7th.

Tony Millet, the health department's environmental director, says bat droppings were found on school property.

According to the Kentucky Department of Fish and Wildlife, there are roughly 15 species of bats in Kentucky. All of them are protected under either state or federal law.

Additionally, Bat Biologist Zach Couch with Kentucky Fish and Wildlife told WDRB News between May 15-August 15, all mitigation efforts are not allowed due to mating season.

Because of that, there were limited options for the school district to get rid of the unwanted residents.

"We had to seek special permission to do that prior to school starting, and we did so," said Supt. Sugg.

The school was granted permission to hang black netting around the edges of the roof.

"Once you put the netting up, the bats will leave and they can't get back in, and you seal up those areas the bats were accessing," said Millet.

Netting installed at Wright Elementary School, as seen on Aug. 30, 2023. The netting was put in place after bats were spotted inside the school. The netting allows the bats to leave, but they can't come back in. (Image source: Grace Hayba / WDRB)

Sugg said the netting was placed in areas where bat droppings had been found which is believed to be where the mammals were entering and exiting the building.

"Most all of the bats have taken flight away from the building and found their way out. There are a few that have become confused and are still in the building and are still trying to find their way out," said Sugg.

The exact number of bats living in the building is unclear. To date, Sugg told WDRB News three bats had been sighted.

The most recent spotted Tuesday in the gym during school hours.

"This is the first place in the building we have found the bat where we have found a bat during the school day," said Sugg. "It was in the gymnasium so very very high ceilings. I think the risk was relatively low but just to be very cautious we exited the gym."

Sugg said for the time being students are having outdoor recess out of "an abundance of caution."

The district told WDRB News the other two bats were found in hallways outside of school hours. Those to two were sent off for testing.

As of Wednesday afternoon, Millet said the results of one of the bats were still pending but the other had tested negative for rabies.

At no point did any students or staff come into contact with the bats, according to the district.

“This is just one of those things that in the life of a superintendent that comes across your desk. We do everything we can to make sure we have a very healthy clean and safe environment," said Sugg. "Hopefully in the next couple of days that bat will find it's way out and we can get back to our routine.”

The North Central District Health Department said if you find bats on your property, do not touch them and call a pest control property.

If the bat is dead and you need to move it, Millet said to wear thick rubber gloves, place the bat in a box, and call your local health department so experts can test it for diseases.

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